Molecular neurobiology

High Ca(2+) Influx During Traumatic Brain Injury Leads to Caspase-1-Dependent Neuroinflammation and Cell Death.

PMID 27289225


We investigated the hypothesis that high Ca(2+) influx during traumatic brain injury induces the activation of the caspase-1 enzyme, which triggers neuroinflammation and cell apoptosis in a cell culture model of neuronal stretch injury and an in vivo model of fluid percussion injury (FPI). We first established that stretch injury causes a rapid increase in the intracellular Ca(2+) level, which activates interleukin-converting enzyme caspase-1. The increase in the intracellular Ca(2+) level and subsequent caspase-1 activation culminates into neuroinflammation via the maturation of IL-1β. Further, we analyzed caspase-1-mediated apoptosis by TUNEL staining and PARP western blotting. The voltage-gated sodium channel blocker, tetrodotoxin, mitigated the stretch injury-induced neuroinflammation and subsequent apoptosis by blocking Ca(2+) influx during the injury. The effect of tetrodotoxin was similar to the caspase-1 inhibitor, zYVAD-fmk, in neuronal culture. To validate the in vitro results, we demonstrated an increase in caspase-1 activity, neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in fluid percussion-injured animals. Our data suggest that neuronal injury/traumatic brain injury (TBI) can induce a high influx of Ca(2+) to the cells that cause neuroinflammation and cell death by activating caspase-1, IL-1β, and intrinsic apoptotic pathways. We conclude that excess IL-1β production and cell death may contribute to neuronal dysfunction and cognitive impairment associated with TBI.